Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Earning a living

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

One of the most common questions asked by people who are interested in starting a nomadic life is: how do you earn a living, while on the move? It is also the one question that seems to be completely ignored by authors of books, telling of their glorious lifestyles, living and traveling in their various nomadic homes.

I would like to correct that omission right here and now by giving the answer to that question; however it is not that simple to answer, which is why almost no-one else explains how to do it.

Because I don't have the complete answer, I will give my thoughts on the subject, based on my own perspective. Maybe some other people will comment on their ideas or experiences.

From my perspective, I want to travel to other countries, where I already know that I will be denied any kind of work visa, so that adds an additional hurdle. I know that many people in this situation do under the table work for cash, to get around this legality. I don't consider that approach to be sustainable, because if you are caught, you will be booted out of the country and probably won't be able to get back in. So I am only interested in legal options.

Also from a moral perspective, the words gypsy, tinker, carnies etc.. conjure up negative connotations with many bricks n sticks dwellers, due to some of those nomadic dwellers who have made their incomes by scamming or stealing. Our actions have an effect on people who follow us, so we have a duty to not only live our unconventional lives honestly, but also to be seen to live honestly. I don't like to see governing bodies given ammunition to further restrict peoples legal rights, criminalize, or otherwise penalize them simply for living in a nomadic home.

That really only gives me a couple of realistic options. The first and most obvious option is to live off savings, which I have already discounted as being unsustainable. Once I start, I want to be able to be nomadic indefinitely. Living off interest and dividends is a sustainable alternative, but by the time I have enough invested to do that, I will have missed the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle.

The most practical solution that I can think of is to run a business, based in my own country (New Zealand). By my understanding, provided any services that my own business provide come from my country of origin, then I should be able to work within the laws of other countries, without needing a work permit. That means that if I am selling anything, the products would have to be payed for in my home country and shipped from there too. It would in reality be an export business. The internet makes it much more feasible to work a business, on the move than was the case, just a few years ago. I have started doing some experiments on the internet to test the feasibility of this idea.

If I can generate enough income, it would become viable to start building an investment portfolio, to supplement living costs until such time as I could reduce the amount of time needed to work a business. Realistically the best kind of cash-flow to be developing is a passive one, so that my time can be both more productive and spent more, doing the things that I want to do.

So the next thing to decide is what kind of business do I have relevant experience to start and also requires minimal resources to start and run.

Looking back at my work history I have worked in the following industries/jobs: Broadcast Media and Audio Engineering/Musician/Private Music Teacher/Retail and Mail Order Management. For about the last six years I have been working in different roles, on the coal face of Transport/Freight/Logistics.

I don't think that any of the specific jobs I have done would work in a future nomadic lifestyle, but I do think that I should be able to use skills and experience gained from the combination of jobs to develop something new. Part of writing this blog is to help develop my writing skills, which I think will also come in handy.

I believe there could be a roll in broadcasting via the internet, but nothing specific comes to me specifically, that I can see an immediate way to generate income from and gain satisfaction at the same time. But I will keep it in the back of my mind, just in case I do see an opportunity.

Creating music also looks to be a difficult task to create an income from, though I have enough equipment to do recording and with time, I should be able to create and refine enough original music to be able to start selling it through the internet. I don't see much income coming from that, but once it's created and online, there are no real costs for making it available, so could be a small part of a diversified income stream. For me it is also a fulfilling pastime when I get time to do it.

I don't see any potential in teaching music, as apart from it being very labour intensive, rather than passive earning, it would require a work permit in any other country. The experience that I gained in educating people may come in useful though, if I could think up some kind of consulting role in an area that I have worthwhile experience in. As a big part of my teaching was in full band production, I know a lot about team building and co-ordination from a practical perspective.

My retail and mail order experience is definitely useful and I see that becoming very useful for developing any kind of internet based business.

Landscape photography is something that I have been very slowly working on for several years now. Due to prior broadcast video camera experience I do know how to frame good shots. I have got to the point of having high quality posters printed from a couple of my stock photo's, which I am starting to experiment with online selling. At this point in time I am using 35mm transparency film which will blow up to a maximum of A2 in size, and retain full clarity. Neither digital or colour negative film can be produced to the same quality at this size yet. At such time as I become more serious about photography, I will probably need to get a medium format camera, but I don't think that makes economic sense at this stage.

Transport/Freight/Logistics is a subject which I have become interested in, as I have been working in different sectors of it. I think there is a possibility of developing a consultancy niche within it, once I work out where my experience can offer specific value to businesses (probably small businesses) that isn't already being met. Because I still work in this industry, I am still gaining experience and insight in this field.

Due to the fact that I am still in full-time employment and work very erratic shifts throughout the 24 hour day/seven day week, my time is limited for developing my nomadic income ideas.

Part of the equation in my circumstance is that my partner and I decided that it would make more economic sense to buy a house with enough land to build my dream boat own, than to rent land to do it, while living on the boat that I currently have. In some ways this slows things down while we are paying a mortgage, but in the long term, I think it will make things easier. If we can pay off about half the mortgage, by making extra payments, then the remaining payments will be low enough to get a property manager to rent it out and cover the mortgage payments while we travel. This could also allow us to pay it off sooner and give us additional rental income, reducing what we need to earn and gives us a place to return to periodically from our travels and permanently when we reach the age of decrepitude.


Anonymous said...


Check out David's lesson/workshop format. He can do it locally as well as by phone, internet, skype, etc.


Mobile Home said...

Thanks for the link Pete, he is an interesting musician. I would have two main issues with taking that approach to teaching though. First, I don't think you can compare any kind of remote teaching, with being there in person. Secondly, when teaching groups, I always make sure that they perform to an audience of at least 200 people, within three months. The real learning doesn't start until they have successfully performed to a reasonable size audience. And any kind of in person teaching would require permission to work in a given country. It would also mean that I would have to stick around for a while, anywhere I taught, which would mean having to build up a decent size business, repeatedly, every time I moved. That is seriously hard work.

The Traveler said...

Good topic, You will definitely need money (although a lot less)when you are living a mobile life. I have found several different cash-paying jobs while I've lived in my van, such as cleaning, babysitting (I've got references), interior painting jobs, weed-whacking at a horse farm, sorting cherries at an orchard, etc. If you are a handy fix-it type person, you can get handyman/repair/building work anywhere you go. Especially around hurricane damaged areas. All you would need is your tools and maybe some references or photos of past jobs. At www.craigslist.org you can often find cash-paying, temporary jobs in the city you are in (if the city is large enough). I found several short-term house-cleaning & carpentry jobs on Craigslist here in Tampa. I have also often seen temporary help-wanted situations on grocery store posting-boards, in the newspaper, and just by asking around/word-of-mouth. Another money making possibility, if you like attending festivals, is to sell either a good or service, such as henna tattoos, bracelets, hemp necklaces, woven flower-crowns, hand-sewn purses, foot-rubs, anything like that. One time I bought a bulk container of 36 mini keychain pocket knives for only 10.00 and sold them at a festival for 2.00 each (with a backpack & a sign), while I was walking around. That is just a small money maker, but it can get you thinking bigger... One idea that is TERRIFIC for vehicle dwellers & travelers is workamping. If you have never heard of it, check it out at www.workamper.com or http://www.cheaprvliving.com/Workamping.html. Workamping is a great setup if you love being in National Forests & Parks. As a final note, you definitely need to build up savings, but there are many possibilites for making money on the road to help you do that. If jobs are limited in one area, then you can just go somewhere else. Being mobile is a truly wonderful life.

Mobile Home said...

Excellent ideas from The Traveler. Not so good for me traveling in other countries, due to the need for work permits, but definitely good for anyone traveling in their own country.

When I start back into traveling around New Zealand, I would have no problems getting temporary or relief truck driving, or other heavy machinery work, as I have experience and all of the necessary licenses. In good economic times I could also get work permits for the same kind of work in pretty much any Western country. Unfortunately in harder economic times, most countries tend to be harder on allowing it.

It is worth looking into picking up a skill that can be used for better paid temporary work. It means that you don't need to spend as much time working and often work is easier to find. I think transport and education are two good industries for that.